ARU boss Bill Pulver will be front and centre at SANZAAR’s executive committee meeting in Tokyo on Friday, but rugby fans shouldn’t hold their breath waiting to hear which Australian franchise is cut from Super Rugby.
The ongoing saga will be a priority discussion point when the competition’s rulers try to thrash out a solution after committing to a restructured 15-team format in 2018.
But with South Africa no closer than Australia to reaching a decision on which teams to remove as the Cheetahs and Kings fight for survival, no announcement is expected this weekend.
“I do not expect any announcement to be made after the meeting given that SARU and ARU are still working their way through the processes that will determine which teams represent them in Super Rugby,” SANZAAR media chief Greg Thomas said.
The ARU announced a month ago that either the Melbourne Rebels or Western Force would be cut, but both franchises are digging in to remain.
The Rebels are refusing to comment on reports that the ARU has made an offer to buy back the Super Rugby license.
Rebels owners, Andrew Cox and the Imperium Group, are reportedly set to launch a multi-million-dollar lawsuit against the governing body to recoup the damages cause by the ARU’s bid to axe them.
The Rebels, who insist the ARU has no legal right to remove them from the competition, say the relentless speculation has affected membership and ticket sales as well as their brand.
The club’s last remaining foundation player, prop Laurie Weeks, admits the uncertainty is also affecting the Rebels’ form.
“Just with the doubts about our future, it’s transferred onto the field,” Weeks said this week after the Rebels’ one-from-nine start to the season.
The Force also remain adamant the ARU has no legal right to kick them out.
Under the “alliance” deal struck between the two bodies last year, the Force’s future was guaranteed until the end of the current broadcast deal in 2020.
Last month, the Force issued a writ in the Supreme Court notifying the ARU of their intention to apply for an injunction if the governing body tries to revoke their Super Rugby licence.
“For guys with families, it’s all quite unsettling,” Force back Alex Newsome said this week.
“And it is unsettling for me as well, because I’m loving Perth and loving the Force. I really want to stay.”
By Darren Walton and Melissa Woods